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The Bully At Work by John Nelson
It was the summer of 1985 and I had just started my first job. I was a painter. We painted houses, apartments, and even boat docks. I was trained and then partnered up. It was my bad luck I was partnered up with Tim. There were about 20 teams of two in the management company. I wound up with Tim, the owner's nephew. At the time he was 20, and me 17.
Tim was tall, nice looking, but bossy and obnoxious. He had a very short flattop. It had zero on the sides and was dark brown on top. I had long hair that was brown at the roots and kind of orange blond at all the rest. What had happened was early in the summer my girlfriend talked me into putting something called Sun In in my hair at the beach. I had left it in all day and this product bleached my hair a weird orange color.
Tim was a good hard worker and so was I. Many painters were lazy, not us. He told me that was why he picked me to be his painting partner. He'd been there three years and his uncle owned the company. He could pretty much do what he wanted. Most of the time he was ok. However the rest of the time he could just be a jerk. Always cutting you down and saying mean insults.
His favorite thing to tease me about was my long color streaked hair. He had this thing about hair I could tell. Anyone with long hair at work he would try to talk them into cutting it. It was a thrill for him. He had that short flattop and all. It was hot this summer so that haircut fit. Flattops were in style in 1985 too. He would always say, "John when are you shaving that bleached mop!?"
I would always say later or I don't know. Tim and I spent the entire day together. We'd go to the paint store. We got the paint for each days job then go to the sight and paint. We would then go to lunch together, usually fast food. Nearly always he'd drive us in his Toyota pickup truck. Everything once in awhile we would work with another team if it was a bigger job. I liked being around other workers. It was sometimes too much to be around Tim alone. If he was driving and got lost, he'd blame me and yell. Just kind of a bully.
One morning when we were starting to paint some gay men whistled at me. He said, "Oh see its that blond hair they like." I was angry, yet said nothing. I really did hate that I put that Sun In stuff in my hair. He would also say, "Look and those roots of yours John!" My plan was to let the hair grow out all summer and cut it a little short when my last year of high school started. I kind of knew something needed to be done to fix it.
I had been working with Tim about a month. I got better at predicting his moods now. There were days when it was not too bad. I had realized though other painting teams got along much better and had more fun. We worked five days a week and eight hours a day together.
One day we were cleaning up the paint brushes and then Tim said, "John if you shave your head I will clean your paint brushes for a week." "I am tired of looking at that blond mop."
I said, "Shave it, not a flattop?" He said, "Shave it bald and trip everyone out!" "Also that will get all the blond off and it will grow out a little before school starts." In 1985 a shaved bald head on a 17 year old would certainly trip people out! He wanted an answer now. He just stared and waited. I wanted to say no, but didn't. I said maybe next week. He reached out to shake on it and I shook his hand, not really ever expecting to shave my head.
Friday came that week and Tim said nothing more about me shaving my head. Oh maybe he forgot that hand shake. The weekend was here and that was all I cared about now. We cleaned up and left our things there to finish up on Monday.
Monday morning came and things went pretty normal. A little work and a little fighting. That day at lunch Tim drove as usual and we went to Taco Bell. On the way back Tim pulled into the parking lot of a Mexican barber shop and parked the truck in front of that blue and red barber pole. My heart was beating fast. He had remembered the deal and now it was next week! Oh no I thought. If I really shaved my head at that time in 1985 everyone would stare at me no matter where I went! Also my ears were kind of big too. I didn't want to do this but shook on it. He wouldn't let this go.
"It's time John," Tim said. I am paying for this haircut he told me, let's go. The truck was in front of this Latino barber shop and most of the words were in Spanish. I saw one mom and a little boy in there, also a lone Latino barber. I got out of that truck knowing now I just somehow couldn't back out. We walked in and sat down in the waiting chairs. The barber was just putting the finishing touches on the boy. Tim told me he was paying so he would be the one talking to the barber. Even though I was 17 I felt like my dad was dictating the haircut here.
The blow drier was now blowing the hair from the little boy's neck and shirt. Any minute now I'd be in that chair. Right now it didn't quite hit me yet that I would soon be totally bald in fifteen minutes!
The mom paid for the little boys haircut and they left. The barber looked us both over and said, "Who's next?" I walked slowly to the chair and sat down and was caped. Tim came right over close and told him, "Rapada, zero." The barber did speak some English and said, "Shave it all off, are you sure?" Tim said yes, all off. Now I knew I was doomed. The barber said nothing to me.
That sound!! The wirr of those big clippers starting up behind me. I was turning facing the wall mirror and the waiting seat area. Tim sat in the seat in front of the barber chair. Suddenly the clippers came up to my head. The barber lifted the bangs and started right down the front no guard. Tim sat staring with delight. I could feel the clippers going over and over my head. I could feel the barber holding down my big ears and trimming around them. Never had I seen my bare scalp or ears this exposed. I felt cool air on my head and ears now.
The barber now took a smaller pair of clippers and got just about all that was left of the stubble. I could see in the mirror I was bald! Tim just kept saying wow, that looks good! I saw myself and was shocked. My ears looked bigger now. My head was shinny too! I rubbed it and it felt weird. I wanted to cry, but forced myself not to. Tim gave the barber the money and tip, then we left.
As we walked to the truck I could already see people starring at my shaved head in the busy parking lot. I felt so nervous and embarrassed right then. We got to the truck and I was slightly relieved. Tim had to rub my head and ears a couple of times. Now John aren't you glad that awful blond hair with those roots is all gone? I said nothing as we drove back to work. In a few days I was used to being bald.